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The United States Air Force Academy’s Class of 2020, will graduate today. The graduation will take place at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Vice President Mike Pence will be present at the event. Vice President Pence will address the graduating class at the academy's Falcon Stadium. Air Force General Jay Raymond, who serves as first chief of space operations, shared approximately 1,000 cadets will graduate, and about 88 of those will join the new branch of the military, the U.S. Space Force:
“We're going to commission Air Force Academy cadets directly into the Space Force. They will take the oath of office and they will be commissioned into the Space Force, so we are really excited to get those cadets onto the team."
WATCH THE GRADUATION LIVE
The U.S. Space Force, became an official branch of the military about 4 months ago, in December 2019. Space Force is focused on defense in space. It will have a small staff and a budget of $40 million and be part of the Air Force Department, just like the Marine Corps is part of the Navy Department. Initially, they plan to employ 200 military and civilian personnel. Ultimately over 15,000 Air Force employees are expected to be part of the Space Force to defend the country against potential threats like spy satellites, missile or meteor strikes from space.
The founder and CEO at SpaceX, Elon Musk, congratulated the United States Air Force Academy Class of 2020 graduates with a video message, “The years ahead will see an incredible change in aerospace technology and you are going to make it happen. Congratulations Class of 2020!” he said (video below). Musk has been an avid supporter of the concept of having a U.S. Space Force branch in the military. When the branch was signed into existence by President Donald Trump, Musk tweeted his support with a Star Trek reference, “Starfleet begins,” he wrote in December.
Saturday’s Air Force Academy graduation ceremony will differ from previous graduations, according to city officials, the ceremony will be shortened to 30 minutes and everyone will implement strict social-distancing guidelines due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. So, no family members nor visitors will be allowed to attend. To comply with Centers for Disease Control guidelines, the cadets will march 8 feet apart, and sit 6 feet away from each other. Air Force Thunderbird airplanes will end the ceremony the traditional way, and fly over the graduates in celebration.
General Raymond says joining the new U.S. Space Force "is a historic opportunity.” That the first generation will pave the way, “We get to start from scratch.” He says there is still a lot of planning to do when it comes to deciding what will be Space Force’s fundamentals, and that no decisions have been made on what the rank insignia will look like, nor what the ranks will be called. “There is no checklist on how to set up an independent service,” he said, “We don't have a huge bureaucracy" that would inhibit innovation. He also stated that current Air Force personnel can also join the Space Force, that they have a 30-day window, to decide if they want to begin working on May 1st. "I understand it's a life-changing decision. If you just aren't sure, I want you to understand we've got a service we've got to plan for. […] If you're interested, we'd love to have you," Raymond said.